Fears for Queen’s Gardens in multi-million-pound land-grab

The latest proposals for Queen’s Gardens, the only open space in central Croydon, have left residents underwhelmed, with some seeing the small public park being rendered into little more than an annex of the £120 million private housing development proposed for the former site of Taberner House.

Queen's Gardens, and Croydon Town Hall. Is this public space about to be 'privatised' as part of a secretive deal with developers?

The view of Croydon Town Hall through Queen’s Gardens. Is this public space about to be ‘privatised’ as part of a secretive deal with developers?

Croydon Council sold the Taberner House site in a secretive, multi-million-pound deal earlier this year to a private developer called Hub, who have submitted plans to build 500 new homes in four blocks on the site of the former council offices.

Their scheme also includes extensive “improvements” to neighbouring Queen’s Gardens, “improvements” which have raised serious questions about the future of what has been a public green space since it was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1983.

A previous housing proposal which would have seen residential buildings from the Taberner House site extended on to part of Queen’s Gardens was blocked by the Labour council administration soon after they took charge of the Town Hall in 2014.

The latest proposals for Queen’s Gardens, which were presented to a council meeting last month, are part of the third set f building plans drawn up for the town centre site in just four years, and the first under which the scheme is solely in the hands of private developers, after the council junked its CCURV urban regeneration joint venture with John Laing and later dumped alternative plans working with Places for People or its own house-building private company, Brick by Brick.

How the plans for Queen's Gardens were presented to last week's council meeting

How the ‘landscape plan’ for Queen’s Gardens was presented to last week’s council meeting

After seeing the scheme submitted to the council, Andrew Kennedy, a member of the Croydon Transition Town group, has asked, “How will this be a ‘park’ any more?

“I can’t think of a more sensitive green space in the centre of Croydon. We must not let it become the backyard for the residential tower blocks. It should remain a special beautiful civic space. Yet the developer of the tower blocks has been given the responsibility of designing the Queen’s Gardens, too.

“This is a conflict of interest.”

Suspicions have been aired elsewhere that what is underway is nothing more than an under-hand land-grab, being conducted right in front of the Town Hall, as public open space is effectively handed over to private developers to help enhance the value of their properties.

Councillor Alison Butler: slow progress on council homes

Alison Butler: Labour councillor behind the deal to sell the Taberner House site

Croydon Council and Hub have kept the purchase price of the Taberner House site a closely guarded secret.

Katharine Street sources have suggested that the council has sold the town centre brown field site for £24million, “subject to planning permission”. Croydon Council, of course, is the authority which will be granting planning permission, with the chair of the planning committee, Paul Scott, being the husband of Alison Butler, the council cabinet member who has recommended the land deal with Hub.

The sale of 350 private homes on the Taberner House site – with another 150 to be made available at “affordable” sale prices or rents – could ultimately be worth at least £120million to the property owners.

For developers to be able to offer potential buyers access to a precious green space in Croydon town centre may well enhance the sort of prices Hub might be able to charge for the apartments once complete.

Kennedy is among a number of people who has been asking for the council to provide more civic open space in the town centre as part of the regeneration work proposed by Westfield and Hammerson and by other large developers and landowners, including Minerva, the owners of the Nestle Tower, St George’s Walk and the listed Segas building.

How Hub announced the Taberner House site purchase on their website in July this year

How Hub announced the Taberner House site purchase on their website in July this year

Having seen the presentation documents for Queen’s Gardens, Kennedy wrote on social media, “I’m not reassured. The photo of the pre-app plans does not relate this space to the plans for the Civic Space because there are no linking steps. Rather it connects itself with the residential blocks with a ‘play ramp’ and a ‘play space’.

“If the residential blocks needs a play space, which of course they do, then they should be within the curtilage of that building.

“There is no indication of the space being considered as a cultural asset other than from introducing a café. There is no small performance space, no monumental feature like a town hall garden usually has, and no special feature has been made of the link to College Green and the underground art gallery or the Fairfield Halls.”

Tracey Hague, who in the past has been an election candidate for the Green Party, is urging residents to take part in a consultation about the future of Queen’s Gardens.

“The council has handed the responsibility for the redevelopment of the whole area to the developers of the adjacent Taberner House and this is muddying the waters between what is needed by the residents of the new tower blocks, play space, private community space and what is needed by the rest of us who use the public gardens.

Green candidate Tracey Hague: hopes that a recent surge in membership may translate into votes

Tracey Hague: wants residents to air their views about the future of Queen’s Gardens

“Queen’s Gardens is the only green space in the town centre and is heavily used by office workers. We need more of these, not less.

“Its function should not be confused with the needs of the residents of the new tower blocks. The residents should have their own children’s play space and communal space, and the Queen’s Gardens should not be used for this purpose.

“The two sites should be treated separately, though there may be visual linking between the two.”

Unusually, the consultation – which has been commissioned by and is being paid for by the developers – is being conducted by telephone interview. “If you feel the needs of the residents should not be confused with the needs of the public, then you need to tell them this,” Hague said.

You can book your consultation call by clicking here.

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This entry was posted in Alison Butler, Brick by Brick, Croydon Council, Croydon Greens, Croydon parks, Environment, Jo Negrini, Paul Scott, Planning, Queens Gardens, Taberner House, Tracey Hague, Transition Town and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Fears for Queen’s Gardens in multi-million-pound land-grab

  1. Peter Alfrey says:

    Need to call it a housing park like they do with business parks when building on green spaces. Phoney consultation no doubt. Unbelievable- when will this malignant growth stop. Hope for economic collapse??

    • This malignant growth, as you so rightly call it, will only stop when people realise that it is just impossible to sell all the flats that are being built or planned. There is just not the money around nor the buyers. You just cannot carry on building, building and building. The whole property based, Council sponsored boom will turn out to be just another set of the Kings New Clothes.

  2. It would appear that these developers are the developers of choice for Local Authorities, they have done deals with the Socialist State of Newham with the co-operation of the Illustrious Leader Sir Robin Wales;


  3. Once again the Council is showing the extent of its awful disability. Caecitate Pecunia*, from which it suffers so appallingly, is pernicious and is characterised by short-sighted decision making allied with total disregard for the needs and rights of the people to a decent place in which to live and relax. Why not just concrete over all of Central Croydon? That’ll put a stop to any complaints and make planning so much easier. It’s what we are headed for anyhow. The confreres of the original Tony Soprano were much admired for their imaginative use of concrete for solving problems and his present crew are carrying on in the family tradition with, it seems, much misplaced pride.
    * Money Induced Blindness.

  4. This is the only green public space within the boundaries of Park Lane, the flyover, Roman Way and the railway. Any reduction in the area of Queens Gardens (including for a cafe) must be resisted. If the Council expects the population of central Croydon to rapidly increase it should be looking to increase green areas (green roof spaces don’t count as far as I’m concerned).

  5. sandilands02 says:

    This is the only green space in the middle of one the biggest towns in the UK. The Council should forgo the 24m and turn the entire area into the Queen’s park. I’m sure they can recover that money from other council owned buildings or lands in central Croydon.

  6. Whilst I fully understand peoples concerns, I would be happy to accept this plan IF Croydon Council ensure that across Katherine Street there is a public square included in the plans for the redevelopment of Georges Walk.
    Its also work remembering that there is a largely unused area of Queens Gardens which will be levelled to make the whole place useable, so it may well be very little space is lost.

  7. I found the interviewer (on-site at the Queen’s Gardens) had good listening skills and wrote down the key ideas that I expressed and managed to include my comments within the space provided for the standard questions. I hope and trust that the politicians and planners will take note.

    I have found in the past that provided I approach the Councillors in a non-aggressive manner that they do listen and take on board some of my points, however they always make up their own mind in the end. There is no substitute for speaking directly to Councillors and I urge people to do that also.

    Thanks for posting, It has widened awareness of the issue although using the word “Fear” in the headline is rather more intense than I had intended.

    • “Worries” has too many characters for the headline – and is somewhat more feeble.

      I fear that Queen’s Gardens is under threat. Don’t you?

      • Yes, I fear they won’t make a proper job of it, that is to be a centre piece garden and possible use as a space for “cultural” activities, though who is to define what that is? Answers on a postcard or to the market researchers.

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